Letter from the Editor: I Used to Be Embarrassed to be Mexican

Source: Luisa Navarro​​

Yes, it’s true. When I was a little girl, I was embarrassed to be Mexican.


I am a first generation Mexican-American, or, as we like to say in Texas, a Texican, who was born and raised in Dallas.

Image: When I was 5-years-old, I insisted my parents call me “Hannah.”​​

In preschool, I struggled to make friends because Spanish was my first language and I didn’t speak any English.


This always made me feel like an outsider as a young child. And eventually, classmates started to bully me because of my culture. One of them even went as far as slapping me across the face.


It’s a strange experience to learn about racism when you’re only five years old.


I started wishing I was never born Mexican. I hated the word “Mexican” and I started thinking it was a dirty word. 


I didn’t want my name to be Luisa Fernanda any longer, and insisted my parents call me “Hannah.”


When I look back now, I’m sad for that little girl, but I’m also grateful that I had my grandmothers, Tita Susana and Tita Lupita, come to my rescue. They taught me to fall in love with my culture and heritage.


When I was ashamed of the brown color of my skin, my Tita Susana introduced me to La Virgen de Guadalupe. She said “Mira mija, you look just like her. She is the most beautiful woman in the world.”

Image: With my Tita Susana at my wedding shower in Dallas, Texas. This was our last photo taken together.​​

My Tita Lupita taught me about mestizo culture and always insisted that I needed to take trips to Chiapas, Puebla, and Guanajuato—which she described as the most beautiful cities in all of Mexico. She also always reminded me that Saltillo (which is where my mom’s family is from and which is famous for its tile and sarape blankets) was once the capital of Texas.


Tita Susana was an amazing community-serving woman who became a leader at her church in Dallas, La Catedral Santuario de Guadalupe and my Tita Lupita was the first woman judge for the juvenile in the state of Coahuila. I am so proud to be their granddaughter. They were the ones who taught me to become a chingona, a badass. 


And even though the racism continued through middle school and even high school, my feelings about being Mexican had completely changed thanks to my grandmothers. I started embracing my name. I started teaching my friends how to pronounce Spanish words correctly. And I started wearing a pendant of La Virgen de Guadalupe.

Image: Tita Lupita and me at her home in Saltillo, Coahuila. We were celebrating my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary.​​

Don’t get me wrong—it still hurt when a classmate told me I would grow up to be his maid, or when another classmate told me to go back to where I came from. But none of those comments really mattered anymore, because I started falling in love with being Mexican-American and I wanted to share my culture with everyone.


I started Mexico In My Pocket because of comments like that. They lit a fire in me with their damaging words. In recent years, I have grown even more passionate about my heritage, and want to ensure that not only my future kids, but whole future generations of Mexican-Americans are never embarrassed of their culture.


When I say this, I want to clarify that I am so proud to be both Mexican and American. As an American, it’s empowering to be able to express my opinions honestly and freely, and it’s a privilege I don’t take lightly. As a Mexican, it’s a gift to be part of a culture that cares so deeply about family and passing down traditions. But without women like my grandmothers and my mother—who insisted on all four of her kids learning Spanish before English—I would only be American.


Thanks to them, I have the best of both worlds.


And as a journalist, I feel deeply that it is my true purpose to help reshape the narrative of Mexico in America.


My dream is to create a platform that reaches enough Americans and others around the world so that they will start saying, “I’m planning a trip to Oaxaca” with the same enthusiasm they’d use for planning a trip to Paris.


I dream of publishing a coffee table book filled with beautiful images from all over Mexico, compiling a cookbook with recipes from the members of this community, and maybe even assisting in making movies about Mexico.


Telling stories about Mexican culture is my passion, but I can’t do it alone. Mexico In My Pocket will always be a platform built around community.


It’s about carrying our traditions on no matter where our children live. Whether they’re growing up Mexican-American, Mexican-English, or Mexican-Chinese, I want this community to be a safe place for us to share our love for our heritage.


I hope you’ll join me by sharing your stories and images by using #MexicoInMyPocket or emailing me. If you took a recent trip to Mexico, feel free to pitch your story ideas my way. We always host Instagram Story takeovers and are looking to promote small business owners.


I look forward to meeting all of you and I am so grateful to have you be a part of this amazing community!


If you have a second, please comment below or send me an email and introduce yourself. I genuinely love connecting with the members of this community and I look forward to hearing your own stories.


If you’ve finished reading this entire letter, gracias desde el fondo de mi corazón.


Besos y abrazos,

Luisa Fernanda


P.S. If you are interested in seeing behind the scenes from Mexico In My Pocket, you can follow me along on Instagram @luisafnavarro.

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About the Author

LUISA NAVARRO

Mexican-American journalist, former national news producer, and graduate of Boston College and Columbia University School of Journalism. Her mission is to shed more light on the beauty and traditions of Mexican culture. This website is dedicated to her grandmothers, Tita Susana and Tita Lupita, who taught her to be proud of her heritage and to always remember where her ancestors came from.

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